Foods of the World Forum Homepage
Forum Home Forum Home > The US and Canada > American Barbecue, Grilling and Smoke-Cooked Foods
  New Posts New Posts RSS Feed - Modifications for Brinkmann & CharBroil Smokers
  FAQ FAQ  Forum Search   Events   Register Register  Login Login

This site is completely supported by donations; there are no corporate sponsors. We would be honoured if you would consider a small donation, to be used exclusively for forum expenses.



Thank you, from the Foods of the World Forums!

Modifications for Brinkmann & CharBroil Smokers

 Post Reply Post Reply
Author
Message
TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
Admin Group
Admin Group
Avatar

Joined: 25 January 2010
Location: Chinook, MT
Status: Offline
Points: 8988
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Modifications for Brinkmann & CharBroil Smokers
    Posted: 17 February 2010 at 16:59
[EDIT] I began writing this for my Brinkmann SnP that I had at the time, unfortunately was later destroyed by a falling tree limb; I replaced the SnP with an identical CharBroil offset, and these mods worked just as well for that. If you have an offset that is similar, the measurements and dimensions might be a little different, but the over-all concepts should work just as well! [/EDIT]

------------------------

i've got some "right out of the box" advice for the SnP that will hopefully be helpful for beginning users of this unit while they prepare for their "permanent" mods. Keep in mind that this first round of mods are meant to be temporary, ubntil you improve on them - but they are indeed effective and will work very well.
 
if you have one of these units, first thing is that by now, you've probably found that the axle/wheel system on the SnP is not so hot. just run down and buy some large washers and 2 large bolts that will fit through the "axle holes" and two fitting lock nuts. i don't know what the "right" name is, but the bolts i got were the ones that had threading only on the end portion, leaving a portion with no threading so that the wheels could turn freely. you can also, if you choose, purchase some heavier-duty lawnmower or similar wheels.
 
next quick fix - this is easy! get some hi-heat tape for dryer vent or wood-burning stove work; it is usually silverish in color. use this tape to block the two big holes at either end of the smoking chamber. this helps a lot with airflow and temperature retention. (See a post below for a permanent improvement on this idea).
 
next - rather than following the instructions and building your fire on the bottom grate of the fire box, move all grates up to the "top" level so that it makes a crosshatch and build your fire here. there is much, much more air below your fire to keep it from choking out now. note that this is a "quick and dirty" mod that can later be replaced by a better mod, which is a well-designed charcoal basket. 
 
next, take your "drip tray" and set it so that it is all the way up at the "west" end closest to the fire box, and down as far as it will go at the opposite end. the reason for this is to block flames and deflect the harshest heat from your firebox into your smoking chamber. it is a 'quick and dirty" substitute for a proper manifold/tuning plate, but works very well until you get or fabricate one.
 
to extend this idea a little and make it even more effective, set a small bread loaf pan (the disposible heavy-foil type) right up to and almost against the hole from the firebox on the drip tray, leaving just a small area for smoke and heat to pass through. you might have to lower the drip tray a level to do this, but it will be fine as long as the tray is still at a downward angle. this helps control the hot spots even more and does add a small amount of moisture to the cooking process, similar to the water pan on an ECB. finally, it helps regulate the temperature coming into the smoking chamber so that it can even out across the chamber.
 
next, get at least four regular masonry bricks or six 2x2x8 bricks (or a similar square-inchage of fire bricks, if you can find them at a local spa/stove store). place these 2x2 (3x3 if using the 2x2x8 bricks) starting at the "east" end of the smoking chamber (farthest away from the firebox, under the chimney end). this is a good start, but you can of course put as many bricks as you want and even go all the way across the smoking chamber if you want. this will go very far to retain heat and prevent temperature drops until you get a proper manifold, and possibly even after that. it will make it so that your unit takes longer to come up to temperature, but once it does, you are in great shape.
 
the last of the "quick and dirty" mods"  is also so easy that it is silly: get two or three HEAVY old blankets and fold them so that they sit on top of the smoking chamber only, extending to the chimney and "folding" around it. it is OK if there is some draping down over the "east" end and the front and back of the unit, but make sure nothing is hanging down at the west or firebox end. these layers of insulation help more than you can imagine no matter what climate you live in and will drastically cut down on your charcoal or wood consumption - moreover, temps should even out very closely across the chamber. it looks as redneck as it sounds, but it WORKS, and that's what matters. before long, you will get pretty good at folding the blankets so that they fit just right and will aslo be able to lift them off and put them back on easily as you add, remove or check the meat, spritz or mop etc.
 
the above mods work, and work well, and don't cost anything at all. having said that, they can be improved upon with some investment in materials and welding. i consider most of the Q&D mods to be simply "poor man's substitutes" for what actually needs to be done. i used them all, and still use some. but for many i now have the "permanent" advanced modifications.
If you are a visitor and like what you see, please click here and join the discussions in our community!
Back to Top
Sponsored Links


Back to Top
TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
Admin Group
Admin Group
Avatar

Joined: 25 January 2010
Location: Chinook, MT
Status: Offline
Points: 8988
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 February 2010 at 17:07
now for the advanced mods: 
 
first is easy: go to a muffler shop and buy a length of new 2.5-inch exhaust pipe. the length you want is probably 9.5 inches. then, have a 45-degree angle cut at one end. finally, have your muffler guy expand two inches of the end of the pipe to fit the base of your chimney (be sure to bring your chimney base - mine was somewhere between 2.5 and three inches), thie chimney extension will now fit very snugly in the base and extend 7.5 inches down into the smoking chamber. this forces the air, heat and smoke to draw across the bottom of the smoking chamber, rather than skirt straight up diagonally from the firebox to the chimney at the far end.
 
over the last few weeks, i have taken the final steps in maximising the potential of the outstanding properties of this pit. the first is the manifold. 

otherwise known as a baffle, tuning plate etc., the purpose of the manifold is to both deflect direct heat from the food and act as a heat retention device in order to maintain steady temperatures across a pit. we can argue semantics and the science of heat transfer of all day, but that's a good layman's description. the thick, heavy manifold takes a while to heat up to temperature, but once it does, it is like you are on autopilot and you can maintain temsperatures for a very long time with only a very small addition of fuel. the improvement in fuel efficiency is nothing short of miraculous, which is important any time, but even moreso in winter - and that factor is multiplied exponentially where i live.

this manifold is modeled on RIVET's design, with a few differences that reflect both my preferences and also the necessities imposed by geography. The manifold is constructed of quarter-inch steel plate. rivet has a spec sheet drawing with specific dimensions etc., but basically it is wide enough to sit in the smoking chamber under the grates, and long enough to reach to the midpoint of the smoking chamber. the "western" end of the manifold is canted at a 45-degree angle and butts up against the opening between the firebox and the smoking chamber perfectly. there are a series of vents blown through that start small on the canted portion and gradually get larger toward the eastern end. there is a handle for conveniently lifting the manifold in order to set it on or take it off the pit, and also for moving it east or west, if desired for temperature and smoke control. the space between the canted portion and the edge of the handle will accomodate a loaf pan, should a water pan be desired.

there is also a secondary manifold that is the same width as the primary, but just long enough to reach the western edge of the chimney. this secondary manifold is specifically designed for this north montana latitude and climate, where temperatures during the winter are so low that they don't get talked about on the news. because of our special tempeerature conditions, i wanted another level of heat retention, and the secondary manifold provides just that.

the "great northern" moniker is a reflection of the history in north-central montana and is a nod to james j. hill's great northern railroad, which blazed the trail into this area. in the winter, temperatures can be very, very far below zero; last week, i woke up to 38 below zero, no windchill. in a climate like that, you need all the thermal mass you can get!  

here's a series of pictures showing the design features of the manifold.




due to the fabrication process of the manifold, it is necessary to do a "pre-burn" in order to burn off any residues or oils. we prepared for this by filling the trusty charcoal basket (another outstanding rivet-designed mod) with cottonwood and some chunks of scrap 2x4. note: the 2x4 sections (and pine, for that matter) would NOT have been used if we were going to cook, of course, but for quick, hot heat, it works very well.


i would have used charcoal to get things going, but there were no opened baggs of it around, so this was an all-wood burn. 

we set the primary manifold in place; butting it up right against the western wall of the smoking chamber:


here's a good view of how the canted portion works to deflect direct heat away while allowing smoke and ambient heat to waft into the chamber:


we then set the secondary manifold in place, off to the east of the primary, below the chimney:


here's what we had when both manifolds were in place:


as you can see, the secondary can be moved around if necessary in order to regulate airflow, smoke infiltration etc.:


we wadded up some newspaper and tossed it under the charcoal basket, then lit it up. before long, we had a good, crackling fire, but because much of the wood was wet on the outside, there  was a lot of smoke. all the better to see the vent pattersn perform exactly as advertised! soon, we were getting some good warmth on a chilly day.

temperatures took a little while to rise while the firebox lid was open (we were letting the wood catch well before closing the lid). half an hour or so later when the wood was burning well, we closed the lid, and the temperatures rose quickly and dramatically. the outside of the smoker got good and hot, too hot to touch, and i took a look in at the oven thermometer i had set in the smoking chamber at the far end (so i would know the temperatures farthest from the fire). the temps were already past 300 degrees. the manifold was doing it's job perfectly, keeping direct heat away while also evening out temperatures. it wasn't that much later that we were at 400, then 450.


i had a ridiculously easy time holding the temps at 450 for a half hour, which i figured would give enough time to burn off any residues. the manifold of course blackened as it seasoned, but it's all good, that's what it's supposed to do.


i had to leave for a while to head out to my parents' place and help my dad with something. i got back maybe an hour later and temperatures were still above 350. not bad, considering i was using fast-burning cottonwood by now, and it was a cold day. i put a few small logs of cottonwood on and brought the temperatures up quickly up above 450 again, and then since then have let it burn down.


all-in-all, a very successful pre-burn. i am very much looking forward to using this at regualr cooking temperatures for cooking barbecue. i was going to toss a chicken on today to cook and then de-bone/chop for a soup tomorrow, but in the end decided not to until i can clean out all ash etc. from the treated 2x4s i was burning. i will be sure to report on my first smoke with this outstanding modification package!

a million thanks to RIVET for all of his assistance with the great northern manifold project. without him, it wouldn't have been accomplished and i am grateful!
If you are a visitor and like what you see, please click here and join the discussions in our community!
Back to Top
TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
Admin Group
Admin Group
Avatar

Joined: 25 January 2010
Location: Chinook, MT
Status: Offline
Points: 8988
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17 February 2010 at 17:10
once the manifold was accomplished, i turned my attention to the firebox door:


the reason for this mod is because the original (on the right) is made of very thin metal. after a season or so of real barbecue, the thin metal will warp and the door's ability to regulate airflow is compromised. the solution? build an exact copy, except in 1/8" steel plate.


as you can see, this metal isn't going to warp any time soon, if ever. the difference between the two is clear. there is an extra advantage in that retained heat is kept in the firebox rather than being lost through the thin skin of the firebox door. we're currently looking into the possibility of a "sheath" that will insert into the bottom of the firebox to perform a similar heat-retention duty, and also to protect the bottom of the firebox from deterioration due to heat and moisture.


the new firebox door is an exact copy, using the old one for a template. the butterfly "shutter" regulates the airflow and can be adjusted accordingly. here's a view of the back side:


the shutter turns easily from open to closed:



this mod was a bit on the expensive side, 65$, but i have a feeling that it will pay for itself before long in reduced fuel consumption. besides, with a thin, warped door, that you're going to have to eventually replace anyway, you might as well pay your welder for some quality. i would much rather spend 65$ now than replace with a cheap, thin one three or four times and end up spending more money and still coming out with something that doesn't do nearly as good a job.

currently, we are looking into the viability of a heat shield for the bottom of the firebox. this shield will accomplish two things. the first is that it will protect the thinner base of the firebox from weakening and deterioration due to heat rusting. the second is that the shield will have a 1/2-inch lip at each end that will raise it off the floor of the firebox enough to provide an excellent heat-retaining "insulation" what should boost efficiency and cut down dramatically on charcoal/wood consumption. due to the planned thickness of the shield, we also expect it to stabilize temperatures similar to the effects of the manifold. updates will be provided as they occur.
If you are a visitor and like what you see, please click here and join the discussions in our community!
Back to Top
gonefishin View Drop Down
Master Chef
Master Chef
Avatar

Joined: 20 September 2012
Status: Offline
Points: 1773
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gonefishin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 September 2013 at 19:14
   really nice mods Tas!  We have one of these at work...plus it's also what I started smoking on.  I'll always have a special place in my heart for this smoker...really!
Enjoy The Food!
Back to Top
TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
Admin Group
Admin Group
Avatar

Joined: 25 January 2010
Location: Chinook, MT
Status: Offline
Points: 8988
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03 September 2013 at 09:26
good morning, dan! for me, the offset design is definitely a great way to go for wood or charcoal burners, and with this particular unit, i beleive that the mods here can really help it whistle dixie, producing great barbecue and other smoked/wood-cooked food every time. I've become quite a fan, and really wouldn't use any other design. If I were building my own, it would look a lot like this, only with "better" (thicker) materials. To me, the only thing that could be better would probably be one of those wood-fired ovens in italy and their similar variants throughout europe and asia.
If you are a visitor and like what you see, please click here and join the discussions in our community!
Back to Top
TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
Admin Group
Admin Group
Avatar

Joined: 25 January 2010
Location: Chinook, MT
Status: Offline
Points: 8988
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 May 2014 at 17:44
Here are a few more things I learned after having one of these units for several years - some of it might be mentioned above, but I will expand on it, here.

I live in North-Central Montana. Our high temperature some days during the winter might be 25 degrees below zero without the wind chill, so i am somewhat acquainted with cold weather. As a general practice, I don’t really do any smoking or barbecue during that weather - but I could, thanks to the mods above.

Two things help a lot when barbecuing in cold weather: insulation of some kind, and mass in the chamber. The mass is covered by the manifolds described above, but finding effective and affordable insulation can be a challenge. I read a lot about welding blankets, but the consensus is that they are too thin (or possibly lack the actual insulation) to really do much good. I also read about fiberglass insulation, water-heater blankets and so on, but those can be expensive or a pain to deal with, even though they are effective. What I use is two old, thick, heavy blankets that i fold carefully into a fitting rectangular shape that will not come near the firebox. I drape one over the cooking chamber, then the other one straight on top if the firs; this provides good, thick, heavy, effective insulation. It’s worked for me pretty darn well these last few years, and I’ve been able to maintain steady, even temperatures as high as I need them to be.

The trick is finding the blankets! Luckily, we have these:


Yes, it is as redneck as it looks, but it works, and works well. In fact, I usually use the blankets during warm weather as well, in order to dramatically boost the efficiency of my charcoal and wood whilst also help very much in maintaining even temperatures across the full length of the pit. With the mass provided by the manifolds below, and the insulation provided by the blankets above, my pit seems to be very well-tuned, indeed.

Now, i know that some folks are going to horrify you with stories about flaming blankets, fire hazards, and who knows what else. All i can say in reply to that is:

a) I’ve been doing this for at least 5 years, and no problems - singed a blanket a couple of times, but that was a result of allowing a flap to get too close to the firebox. In other words, be organised in your folding and placement, and there won’t be a problem.

b) It works, so no need to mess with it.

If your smoker is of similar design, there’s no reason why it shouldn't work very well for you, also.

Moving along, if you have an offset, you might be confounded by the large, open holes at each end of the smoking chamber. These are, of course, put there so that one can use a rotisserie, which is a great idea for sure; however, in the meantime, they are large, open holes that interfere with your airflow. In the past, I used to use various kinds of tape, but this was always a messy and unsightly option, so I figured, why not do it right? The result is this:


Two flat washers, a locking washer, a nut and a machine screw - problem solved. Actually, I guess you need to double that list, in order to repeat for the other side! 

This way, you can plug the holes in an effective, attractive and re-usable way. Be sure to burn off the zinc coating on the hardware before using it, and also to give it a spray  or wipe-down now and then with cooking spray, oil or some other ype of fat, in order to prevent rusting:


Finally, those of you know know me know that I am a big proponent of the water pan when smoking in an offset. To summarise my thoughts on it: I have found over the years that it simply produces better results regarding smoke ring penetration and the permeation of smoke flavouring, getting a deeper, sweeter aroma and flavour into your barbecue. The trick, in my opinion, is to start with a water pan and let it boil and evaporate down until empty, and then continue without the pan through the rest of the cook. This tends to avoid diminishing returns as you are able to have the added moisture at the beginning when you need it most, then leave it behind during the second half of the cook. Since smoke ring penetration is finished at around 140 degrees, the moisture is no longer necessary, and you can turn your attention to forming a great bark, which will be helped by the drier atmosphere. My experience over the last couple of years bears this out, and it is a permanent part of my technique, unless specific circumstances call for me to do otherwise. 

In any case, an offset really isn't designed for this the way that a bullet smoker is, but it's easy enough to do, especially if you have a manifold like the one I describe above, and have taken the time during the planning and design stages to make accomodations for a water pan:


It doesn't get much easier than that, folks - as you can see, the water has been coloured by the smoke, but the basic idea remains.

That's what I have for now - more on these and other concepts for maximising your offset as they develop.
If you are a visitor and like what you see, please click here and join the discussions in our community!
Back to Top
TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
Admin Group
Admin Group
Avatar

Joined: 25 January 2010
Location: Chinook, MT
Status: Offline
Points: 8988
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote TasunkaWitko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10 September 2014 at 17:42
In order to drive the point home a bit, and underscore the benefits of the Great Northern Manifold System mentioned above, here was the view just a few miles south of my home this morning, 10 September 2014:

If you are a visitor and like what you see, please click here and join the discussions in our community!
Back to Top
 Post Reply Post Reply
  Share Topic   

Forum Jump Forum Permissions View Drop Down



This page was generated in 0.063 seconds.